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Emmys: USA Gets Validation for Ambitious ‘Animals’

When “Political Animals” debuted on USA last year on July 15, the show was seen as something of a left turn for the NBCU cabler. But with five Emmy nominations granted to the program this morning, clearly something must have been right.

Animals” starred Sigourney Weaver as a put-upon Hillary Clinton figure – a U.S. Secretary of State with Oval Office ambitions – trying to keep America running while preventing her much-scrutinized family from falling into ruin. Call it “The West Wing” with extra suds, hold the high-mindedness. The show won nominations for Outstanding Miniseries or Movie, as well as recognition for Sigourney Weaver in Lead Actress in a Miniseries and Ellen Burstyn in Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries.

“We feel this is one of the best casts, really, that has ever been assembled on television,” said Jeff Wachtel, co-president of USA, in an interview Thursday.

Political Animals” also received nods for Outstanding Casting For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special and Outstanding Hairstyling For A Miniseries Or A Movie.

“Animals” is the kind of show that, really, should have fared better, given its cast and subject matter. And it’s the sort of species of program that sometimes turns up at the Emmys, where a round of nominations can provide validation for executives’ original idea for putting something on the air in the first place.

There had been talk before “Animals” launched of having it morph into a regular skein for USA. Ratings, however, did not support the notion. The sixth episode of “Animals” finished with 2.3 million viewers, up 18% from the previous week’s episode. The last show garnered 659,000 viewers in the 18-49 demo and 804,000 viewers in the 25-54 demo. Those totals were the second best since the July 15 series premiere.

“There was always a possibility there might have been other seasons, but the idea of this was to break out with an event series,” said Wachtel.

The drama also brought new viewers to USA, which is best known for dramas such as Psych”and “Suits” – skeins that mix strong characters with humor and escapism. “This was a very different audience than USA had before,” explained Chris McCumber, USA’s co-president. “As an event, as a creative light for us, the way it was received by the press and audiences – and now the Emmys – overall it was a success.”

Could the show be rebroadcast to celebrate its Emmy recognition? “That’s a good question,” replied Wachtel, who said he might bring up the idea of seeing whether “Political Animals” might deserve a turn on a sister NBCUniversal cabler, such as E!

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